700 South 1600 East PCE Plume


Update September 14, 2012

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with support from Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ), Salt Lake County Health Department, and Salt Lake City, today announced a proposal to add the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. EPA is requesting public comments on the proposed Superfund listing for 60 days after publication in the Federal Registry.

Listing on the NPL will make the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume site eligible for comprehensive assessment and cleanup through the Superfund process. It will also mandate the availability of federal funds for cleanup. Additionally, it will guarantee the public an opportunity to participate in the process.

“EPA, the State of Utah, and Salt Lake City are committed to protecting the health and well-being of the residents affected by this contamination,” said Ryan Dunham, EPA site assessment manager. “Superfund is the best tool we have to ensure the source area and the impacts associated with this contamination are comprehensively addressed.”

The 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume site is located near the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center on the east side of Salt Lake City. The preliminary investigation area is bounded on the west side by 900 East, on the north at 500 South, on the east at 1600 East, and on the south by Yale Avenue.

While a detailed site assessment and investigation would occur under the Superfund process, prior sampling and investigations conducted by the State and EPA indicate groundwater in the area is contaminated with tetrachloroethylene, commonly known as PCE. The groundwater plume, first discovered in 1990 during routine sampling of the Mount Olive Cemetery irrigation well, contains levels of PCE above federal drinking water standards. In 2010, water samples taken by the City from natural springs fed by groundwater in the area also indicated the presence of PCE.

Salt Lake City’s municipal drinking water is monitored regularly and meets safe drinking water standards. As a precaution the City has already removed a drinking water well near the plume from service. Left unaddressed, the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume is likely to grow in size, further endangering public water supplies.

The presence of PCE in natural springs and shallow ground water indicates a potential for indoor inhalation exposures through the process of vapor intrusion. A former dry cleaning facility at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center is the only identified PCE source in the area.

EPA is proposing to add eight sites nationally to the NPL today, including the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume.

Update August 30, 2012

PCE Contamination Found on East Side

DEQ & SLC Urge EPA To Prioritize Area for Cleanup

Sampling conducted to determine the extent of possible contamination from the 2010 Red Butte oil spill brought about a surprising discovery. While the sampling detected no crude oil, it did find tetrachloroethylene (PCE) contamination in several residential Salt Lake City springs, leading to a call by Salt Lake City Mayor Becker, DEQ, and the Salt Lake County Health Department for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation into the contamination and a subsequent request for placement of the impacted area on EPA’s National Priority List (NPL).

PCE is widely used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing. The Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center is the suspected source of this PCE contamination. The chemical is reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to concerns regarding PCE contaminating drinking water, PCE in groundwater volatizes easily, allowing its vapors to move through soils and enter basements through cracks in the foundations. This can create unhealthy vapor buildup in homes and buildings, putting inhabitants at risk.

The PCE plume was first detected in the 1990s during routine sampling of an irrigation well in the Mt. Olive Cemetery. This led to the discovery of the 700 South 1600 East PCE Plume site. Groundwater concentrations in monitoring wells reached 320 µg/L in some areas; the drinking water standard is 5.0 µg/L. PCE was detected in a Salt Lake City municipal drinking water well in 2004 at levels below this standard, but the city chose to remove the well from service as a precautionary measure. With the discovery of PCE at the East Side Springs Site, it became apparent that the initial plume was migrating and now covers approximately 300 acres. If left unchecked, the contamination could continue to migrate and put other public drinking water supplies at risk.

DEQ conducted a Preliminary Assessment and a Site Investigation under CERCLA authority from EPA. Both reports were approved by EPA and are the basis for moving forward with evaluating the site further under a proposed NPL listing. Based on the investigation by DEQ and with preliminary local government and public support for listing, the EPA intends to proceed with proposing placement of the site on the NPL in September 2012 and open up the process for public comment. Salt Lake City also plans to provide residents with information and solicit comments. A final NPL determination may come as early as April 2013.

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